Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Many computers are online all the time, receiving no additional threat from hackers. It's your browsing habits that matter.

If you have any programs operating on your computer, such as Word for example, when you go on the internet does this give hackers more of an access to the computer? Or should I always access the internet from my desktop with all other programs turned off (except Windows, of course)?

In this excerpt from Answercast #18, I look at keeping programs open on your computer while being connected to the internet: I do it all the time.

Turn off programs?

No, you don't need to turn off other programs.

A lot of people these days are connected to the internet continuously. For example, my machines. Not only are they on all the time, but they are also continuously connected to the internet. So, if I were at all concerned about that, I wouldn't be able to run anything because I have to first try and disconnect from the internet.

Inviting a threat

It just doesn't really work that way.

The threats you get from the internet are not so much threats that will proactively somehow reach into your computer and do things. It's the threats that you invite on to your computer, knowingly or otherwise, that are the risk.

Internet safety

So rather than shutting down Word, for example, I would caution you instead:

  • Don't download Word documents from people you don't trust (it is possible to write a malicious Word document whether you're connected to the internet or not.)

  • Don't download executable files from people you don't trust, or sources that you don't trust.

  • Don't open email attachments that you aren't expecting.

There is whole litany of things that help you avoid inviting malware on to your machine! That's a significantly bigger risk than simply having a bunch of programs open while you're surfing the net.

If that were a problem, I would have been toast long ago. I have lots and lots and lots of programs open all the time while I'm online. I have actually (knock on wood) never had a malware infection on any of my machines.

So, it's not something that I believe you need to be concerned about.

Go ahead, leave your programs open; connect to the internet; surf safely, but go ahead and surf.

Next from Answercast 18 - Why did a CD disc explode in my computer?

Article C5357 - May 17, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
May 20, 2012 12:38 PM

We have been reading your posts for a few years and have learned so much from you. But we just had to know... You spend so much of your time helping answer so many people's questions... Do you get any kind of payment back for all the work you do??? We "assume" the advertiser-links on your page help pay for some of the costs associated with your website... but does anyone actually pay YOU? Your service is invaluable!

My revenue comes primarily from advertising (which is in decline, sad to say), and a small trickle from affiliate sales (details) and contributions (i.e. Buy Leo a Latte). I'm currently working to increase the number of books I have available (on Amazon and direct) to make up for the decline in traffic and advertising revenue.

Telling your friends, linking to my articles, sharing on Facebook are all fantastic ways to help as well.

But honestly on some days the best payback is simply a "thank you" - those can really make my day. Smile

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